Two recent articles related to the comfort levels of people returning to in-person worship highlight the ongoing challenges that pastors and churches continue to wrestle with amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
One survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute reported that nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans were “somewhat” or “very” uncomfortable attending indoor worship services due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus. The survey polled more than 3,000 Americans from late May to early June, and the results were reported by Baptist Press and other media outlets.
While acknowledging that COVID-19 continues to be a very legitimate concern, some pastors are fearful that the practice of worshipping online or via television may tempt members to be slow in returning to church attendance in a new normal. In an article published on Thom Rainer’s “Church Answers” website titled “What is keeping people away?,” leadership consultant and former Southern Baptist pastor Ron Edmondson writes, “People have fallen into a nice routine of online and in-home worship.”
Based on personal conversations and anecdotes I’ve heard from pastors across our state, I believe that they have done a good job trying to weigh the health and safety of their members with the desire to gather together again for corporate worship even as they have attempted to keep everyone happy.
Some churches have felt compelled to go back to meeting outdoors or through online gatherings after they had resumed indoor services because some attendees were testing positive for COVID-19 after participating in indoor worship.
These continue to be difficult and trying times for pastors as they seek godly wisdom and counsel to make the best decisions possible. Some long-tenured pastors feel this current situation has led to some of the most difficult days that they have experienced in ministry. Pastors need your prayers and your understanding as they try to make the best decisions for the church family.
Even if they don’t express it, many pastors know that there are a variety of perspectives and opinions related to the coronavirus, stay-at-home orders, face coverings, worship services and more among their flock. Pastors know that whatever decisions they make, they will not please everyone. They will be criticized for not opening church services, and they will be criticized for opening church services. They will be criticized for requiring or encouraging face coverings in services, and they will be criticized for not requiring or encouraging face coverings in services. Pastors find themselves in a “no-win” situation.
In these days, difficult decisions, dwindling attendance and other issues can weigh on a pastor and make their calling even more challenging. Now is the time to show them patience and grace as we lift them up in prayer.
Now would be a good time for you to express your personal appreciation to your pastor and let him know you are investing more time in intercessory prayer for him as he ministers during these daily challenges.
A short text or an email to him can offer more encouragement than you realize. Just a few words to let him know you realize his load is heavy and that you appreciate and respect him will be a special and welcomed blessing.
You can also help your pastor and your congregation by making phone calls to others and inviting them to pray with you during that conversation for the pastor and the needs of the people within your church fellowship.
A positive word may cause them to disregard negative thoughts they have been tempted to dwell on in relation to other members or church leadership.
I challenge you to live by the inspired words in scripture that I have included below as we live through unusual and difficult days. Live like who you really are – a child of the God who is love!
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” – Philippians 4:2.
“Do all things without murmurings and disputing” – Philippians 4:14.